Father’s Day Review – Luke Combs – “Fathers & Sons”

#500 & #510 (Country, Traditional Country) on the Country DDS

Regardless of what you might think about some of his music, it’s clear that this Luke Combs guy is a good egg.

Right now, popular music is in an arms race, with massive stadium superstars releasing 30-track albums trying to monopolize the charts and dominate algorithms. Luke Combs is very much in that gaggle of America’s topmost entertainers with widespread appeal, especially after his version of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” became the “song of the summer” in 2023 and shot to #1 in all of music.

And so what does Luke Combs do as heavyweights like Taylor Swift and Morgan Wallen trade blows at the top of the charts? He releases an understated and mostly acoustic twelve-song traditional country concept album delving into the love shared between sons and fathers to coincide with Father’s Day. This is quite remarkable to say the least.

Fathers & Sons is far and away the best-written album of Luke’s career. It’s also far and away the most country-sounding album of his career. Poignant, purposeful, heartfelt, and graced by perfect timing, it’s everything you were hoping it might be when Combs announced it only about a week ago, and nothing you were worried it could have become as he tries to compete for attention in the crowded music space.

The key to a good song about sons, fathers, or family in general, is to capture the emotion inherent in these familial relationships without being overly sappy and sentimental. Like a Hallmark movie, if the pandering for an emotional moment is too obvious, it will fall flat. Working in grays and nuance, and not stating the most obvious is how to land an emotional wallop. Let the audience come to some of the conclusions themselves.

In each of the twelve tracks on this album—including ten co-written by Combs—that balance is struck just about right. The opening song “Front Door Famous” captures the feeling of coming home with a couple of rugrats overjoyed to see you like you’re some kind of superstar, even if in Luke Combs case, he is. The career of a musician always getting called away becomes the cutting inspiration for the song “All I Ever Do Is Leave.”

When Combs sings in the ending song, “What’s this every other weekend and leaving all about?,” it cuts hard, no matter if you’re a product of divorce. Most all of the seasons and scenarios of fatherhood are expressed on this album, from the sweet and sentimental moments, to those of faraway longing or love lost, including for those who’ve passed on.

Timing is so essential to the potency of this album, just like it’s essential to all great musical moments. Luke Combs made this record when his kids were still young, and that fresh feeling of fatherhood was still coursing through his veins, and his own father is still around to savor these moments. And yes, releasing it on the week of Father’s Day when so many fathers, sons, and daughters are celebrating helps center your attention on the subject matter, and savor it like it’s meant to be.

This is the type of music that is perfect for a Sunday morning: slow or mid tempo, reflective, and acoustic like you’re sitting on a back porch or a pier. It features appearances by folks like Sam Bush, Bryan Sutton, and Charlie Worsham as opposed to the usual modern mainstream studio crowd. Fathers & Sons slows everything down and allows you to appreciate the small things in life and the most important moments.

This album is not a masterpiece. Some of the songs get a little listy with the lyricism like a Luke Combs song will. And sure, a few of the moments or songs may get too syrupy for some. But co-writers like Lori McKenna, Jessi Alexander, Rob Snyder, and Erik Dylan bought into the vision Luke Combs brought to this album, and made a collection of songs that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

1 3/4 Guns Up (8.1/10)

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